December 13th, 2007

head shot

A Mess o' Guilt and Worry

 Years ago, just post-college, I was taking a road trip with a girlfriend (well, okay, we were going to see The Grateful Dead in Las Vegas, of all places) and we hit a deer in the Arizona mountains. 

We pulled over and realized, right away, that the deer was dead. 

The trucker who stopped to help us thought we were crying about our car, which was a bit battered, but we were really crying about the deer. And about the fact that as human beings moving across the earth in big, fast, steel contraptions, we are inherently destructive. It was a humbling thing to, well, run into.

These days my most humbling encounters are as a parent. There are just endless realizations and learning experiences and epiphanies and honestly, some days, I want to say, "OK. I've learned my lessons for the month. Let's just coast through on autopilot 'til the 1st, shall we?" And then it's the very next day that one of them has a falling out with a friend, or forgets her homework, or needs stitches in her knee. And I'm back on the "learn something new everyday" train, whether I want to be or not.

The lessons are plentiful and varied and specific and contradictory:

Six-year-olds and nine-year-olds need my help.
Don't do for my six- and nine-year-old what they can do for themselves. 
Best friends are true blue.
We all should have more than one best friend.
Kids need their sleep.
Set the alarm a little earlier so the kids have time in the morning to get up, get dressed and get organized.
Bodies are so strong and resilient.
Bodies are fragile and precious and tender.

Oi. What's a driver, I mean a mom, to do?
But really, the bottom-line lesson is always the same and it is this: Once our babies are outside of us, moving around in the world, there is only so much we can do to keep them safe -- emotionally or physically. Stuff happens. Our children get overwhelmed or left out or chastised or hurt, and there is often nothing we can do about it. Except offer love and support and comfort -- after the fact.

Within the last week my daughter got stitched...
A girlfriend's son got scarlet fever...
My sister's son took a nasty tumble off the roof of a car....
And all of your kids out there? 
Someone bombed a math test, someone got lice, someone got his heart broken for the first time. 
Right?

We are driving through life and we're all gonna hit stuff. There's just no way around it. Cliff on one side, rock wall on the other. We're driving fast. At night. And one of our headlights is out. We're gonna hit stuff.
And sometimes all we can do is get out of the car and cry a litle and hope a trucker pulls over to help.